Training, racing, gear, facial hair styles and thoughts from my push to become an elite cyclist.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Review- Moots MX Divide

After a month's worth of riding I'm ready to publish a review based on more than my initial "oh wow this is really cool look at my pictures" post a few weeks ago.  My schedule hasn't allowed me to race on it yet, but I have put it through its paces on a variety of rides around the area.

The front end is very similar to my trusted RSL- 44 mm headtube, PF30 bottom bracket shell, curved downtube, butted seat tube and 30.9 seatpost, but obviously the carbon Fusion link, Fox RP23 shock and Zen Fabrication aluminum rear end are markedly different.

The rear triangle is a solid, welded aluminum unit with slick machined dropouts.  The brake mount allows for replaceable threads- a nice touch for post mounted calipers.  The frame comes with a 142 x 12 DT Swiss axle but is convertible to a standard 135 x 9 qr with a dropout conversion kit.  My bike is built up with the standard qr configuration as that's the way my wheels are currently setup- but I would consider running the 142 x 12 and switching dropouts is a 5 minute job. 

Before riding the Divide my concern was that the bike would feel uncoordinated or unbalanced with the mixture of ti and aluminum halves.  The RSL is plenty stiff up front, but it doesn't have any linkages, pivots or a shock to complicate it.  Ti full suspension bikes have been offered from boutique builders before, and they've often failed because the inherent characteristics that make it great for a hardtail (smooth, compliant ride) make it really bad for a full suspension bike (excessive flex).

For the suspension design Moots collaborated with the Sotto group, an independent consulting firm specializing in bicycle-specific suspension solutions.  The net result is a faux-bar single pivot design with a chainstay pivot similar to the Trek Superfly, Yeti 575 or Scott Spark. 

First and foremost Moots is a high end fabricator of titanium bikes, and while they are remarkably good at designing and building ti frames it takes an entirely different skillset to design suspension.  Outsourcing that design work was a good move and something that wasn't an option for small builders ten years ago.

The build comes in at a respectable 25.4 lbs. as shown.  Considering the kit is nearly identical to my RSL (with the exception of the Avid XO Trail brakes yielding a 30 gram per wheel weight penalty for their beefy 4 piston calipers) the extra three pounds is from the frame.   

So how does it ride?  After a very quick attempt to get the suspension dialed I headed out on my normal midweek loop.  The first grass section is short downhill with some bumpy tufts of grass where I normally land after semi-launching off the lip.  I took my usual line and I touched down without any chatter or feedback.  I can't exactly recall what I said aloud as that happened, but I vividly recall how smooth it felt- and that I was already completely sold on the bike 1/4 of a mile into my ride.

Out on the trail the Divide didn't disappoint- stable and smooth I was able to pick (and maintain) my well-worn hardtail lines with more speed and comfort.  The bike tracked up, over and around everything I threw in its path; the feel was remarkably consistent end-to-end.  I've ridden other full suspension designs where the stiffness and ride feel was dominated by one end being too stiff or too soft- and neither was the case here. 

I'd summarize the overall feel as smooth, predictable and confident.  The bike feels very composed and predictable at any speed.  It's not a fun, flickable, playful, twitchy or overly plush bike, but rather it zips along with a smooth, even-handed feel.  In spite of its size it also never felt too long, rakish or like a tractor-trailer. 

Weight balance is a big part of off-road handling and is tough to divine from a simple geometry chart.  Head angle, front/center distance, offset, chainstay length and bb drop all factor in, but it's all academic until you get the bike out on the trail.  As I said before the RSL is my benchmark, and pretty much any full suspension design is going to mean a longer back end than short and tight 17.55" chainstays on the RSL.  Turns out that's a benefit as the cockpit lands a little more centered between the wheels and the bike goes where it's pointed and arcs through turns very predictably.  One of the few negatives of the RSL (or any other XC racing 29er hardtail) is that the weight distribution is slightly rear-biased and keeping front end traction in the wet requires some attention. 

While the bike didn't change the way I ride it did allow me to maintain more speed on stutter bumps and provided me with quite a bit more confidence-inspiring traction in all conditions.  I'm still not taking the huck lines, but I am riding my XC lines smoother, faster and with more confidence.  Rough, chattery uphill sections were easily conquered with a snappy acceleration and some subtle steering input. 

Setting up the Fox shock took a little fiddling, but I found my optimum setting with the air pressure at 90-95% of my bodyweight, rebound 2 clicks in from full open and the ProPedal setting on 2.  With the ProPedal wide open the bike felt very plush, but the falling rate suspension needs some mid-stroke damping to keep it from feeling too bouncy under pedaling forces.  Using the ProPedal settings allows you to use more sag as the shock stiffens up through the midstroke so you can run lower pressure so some air pressure readjusting is required as you work toward your optimal setting.  Most of the civilized world has figured out how to setup their RP23s, but for me it took a little dialing to really feel like I was getting the most out of the bike.

At the Ryan Hawks Memorial at Catamount there were a few chattery descents where this bike would have been a godsend- not only to save my back but also to eek out a little more speed and carry some momentum further into the climbs.   

The extra 3 pounds (compared to the RSL) are noticeable when climbing...and that's to be expected with any full suspension bike.  Under torque the properly setup suspension doesn't move too much under pedaling forces and you still feel like your effort is being put into forward motion.  On some very smooth climbs I went into the 3 ProPedal setting, and in that configuration I could throw down all the square pedal strokes I wanted.  I don't think it's worth using that setting on the trail as it doesn't really allow the suspension enough latitude to do its job, but on some exceptionally smooth sections I'd consider it.  As I said above the 2 setting is what I found to be the right mix of bump compliance, damping and pedaling efficiency.  I would consider running it on 1 for pedaling over very chattery, square-edged impacts like a Pennsylvania rock garden or for high speed, buffed out swoopy descents where you want to really compress into the corners.

In the rough is where the bike really shines, and the ti front end smooths out the high frequency chatter unlike any other full suspension bike I've ever ridden.  The multi-material approach is truly the perfect blend of the modern ti front end and a smooth, efficient, tried-and-true suspension design. 

All in I'd say Divide is more like an M3 than a 911.  The ride feel is amazing and designed for racers in a package perfectly suited to all day epic rides and endurance races.  While it has legit trail chops and is a stable platform for pushing the limits of traction it's really most comfortable with a number plate on the front.   

You may find bikes that are lighter, stiffer, or cheaper, but none of them provide the total package and mind-blowing ride feel of the MX Divide.  Racers on a budget will look elsewhere, but for ride quality connoisseurs there's no comparison.

As much as I'd love to own an M3 it's not in the cards, but fortunately the Divide is already in my stable.

Update- here are some additional photos of the front derailleur cable routing.


  1. Great review and build. You really got the weight down, does it include pedals? Also what are you using for a headset? I am on the fence with the mx vs. the s-works epic 29. Main concerns with mx are weight/chain stay length.

  2. 25.4 is all in for the build as shown- including XTR pedals and single ti King cage...though technically without the heart rate monitor and flat kit. I got a little compulsive about the weight on my RSL so I used the same formula on the Divide.

    The frame weight on the Divide is 6.5 lbs for a 19" with the qr dropouts. I'm 188 lbs so I can't run ultra weight weenie stuff, but you could trim some more weight with XX brakes, the tapered carbon steerer XX SID, Crank Brothers Eggbeater 11s and the AM Classic Race 29 wheels.

    Headset is a standard 1 1/8" Cane Creek 110 44 mm inset.

    Chainstay length hasn't been an issue for me- on tight, twisty New England trails it's the most nimble full suspension bike I've ridden, 26 or 29.

    I haven't ridden an S-works Epic 29er so I can't honestly compare it, but that's a solid choice as well.

  3. New England here as well, which is why I had the chain stay concern. My build would be X0 drivetrain/XT brakes/SID fork like your own thinking that it could be sub 26 pounds with that. Glad you said w/pedals as sometimes weight are dubious but it is hard to ride w/o them. Never ridden TI but i have ridden carbon and combined with the suspension it def. takes the edge off. I am curious how it compares to the ride of carbon.

  4. Although I've spent a good deal of time nitpicking the build I'd say the key to saving weight is in the fork and the wheels... and you probably knew that already.

    Carbon can do amazing things, but the overall high frequency damping of ti is pretty unmatched. To be fair there's a weight penalty versus the lightest carbon bikes.

    The Specialized is a great bike- and I'd be psyched to own one, but it's a different beast than the Divide.

  5. Thanks for the info. Great review. Notice you have the XX Sid on your bike. Is the XX worth the upgrade over the RCT3 (i think those are the initials)? Also which front der. are you running. I read the spec and it said 34.9 bottom pull. However is it low or high mount?

  6. Front derailleur is a XX high clamp, bottom pull- you need the high clamp to clear the seat tube pivot. It may be my imagination, but I think the XX shifts better than the X0. I needed to use a (longer) Thomson seatpost bolt instead of the stock torx because the metal clamp band was a little too short. Other ft derailleur clamps fit fine, so I think it's a one-off derailleur issue and not an irregular tube.

    The XX SID is worth it...but it is marginally heavier than the RCT3. The XLoc hydraulic lockout is flawless and worth the minor weight penalty in my opinion.

  7. Hi Matt!
    Hi have a MootoX Custom Single Speed and Rigormootis.I like buy a new bike: ybb,rsl or mx divide? Which do you recomend?


    1. I'd say it depends on what you're after. The RSL is tough to beat- light, stiff and remarkably smooth. All-in mine is 22.4 lbs with pedals and bottle cages. It's evolved from the Rigors and MX YBBs that I've ridden and the handling is a little more sorted. The front end is also much stiffer.

      The Divide is a different animal- much more plush and stable, but also heavier; the traction advantage is undeniable though. It's pretty much the only bike I've ridden for the last 6 weeks, so that should give you an idea how much I like it.

      Either would be great- I think it would be a matter of whether you prefer the lightweight and simplicity of the hardtail or the smooth riding, traction-enhancing full suspension. Really it's the classic hardtail vs full suspension discussion since they're both awesome.

      The YBB splits the difference between the two. My YBB was my only mountain bike for 3 years- and I loved it, and if you're looking for just a little more smoothness from your hardtail then that's your ticket. The ride is comparable to a short travel XC bike, so if you like riding a true suspension bike with tunable sag and 100+ mm of travel you'll be a little disappointed with the MX YBB as that's not really what it's all about.

      For me the YBB got lost between the true hardtail and longer travel full suspension. I think it's the perfect 1 bike option for XC and marathon types looking for a smoother than a hardtail ride. The YBB frame is around 4.3 lbs, so a complete build can be had for under 23.5 lbs. I would absolutely get it with the PF30 bottom bracket to help pedaling stiffness.

  8. So got the MX and it is being built. Last part needed are brakes. I was wondering if you could tell me the rear hose length you used for the MX.

  9. Oh boy. I cut about 8" off the stock length for the rear caliper, and I can attempt to measure the actual if that would be beneficial.

    I'd like to see pictures of it and get your thoughts on it once it's finished.

  10. Looks like it's around 58" and that could comfortably be about 2-4" shorter. With 685 mm bars and a 100mm x 10 deg stem (as pictured) there's more than enough room for a full bar spin.

    Also the new housing guides are not the previous loops that Moots uses on other models so you don't need to cut the hose to install it.

  11. Great, bike is pretty much set up. Just need to add some sealant to the tires. I have to say that the front derailleur cable routing is a little confusing towards the bb. Do you have a close up pic of how your's was routed? Much different feelt then the Epic I have been riding. Just a parking lot ride or two but the CTD rear shock is pretty interesting.

  12. It's tricky, and I took some time figuring out the routing as there are a few options. I ended up going with what I thought looked like the best and most obvious routing- when standing over the bike the rear derailleur cable goes in the rightmost of the three slots, rear brake in the middle and front derailleur on the left. That way none of the cables cross in or near the guides.

    With the front derailleur cable in the left position it's a straight shot through to the last guide, then the cable wraps outboard around under the down tube to the cable stop. You can see in this picture the end of the cable housing in the cable stop, so the cable goes from the left slot in the last stop to bend around the non-drive side of the down tube to the the stop.


    If you'd like a better, direct pic I will certainly post one later tonight, but I figured I'd show you this in case you're chomping at the bit to get it built.

  13. If you can post another pic it would be helpful. I am chomping to get it dirty before we get some serious snow.

    1. See above at the end of the post, and good luck with your build. I'd love to see pics of it once it's completed.

  14. Nice! Mine housing looks right. Hope to take delivery next week. Just need to add some sealant. Left the steerer pretty long so I can break it in right then chop off the excess. I will post a pic next week once I get it home. Next need to work on selling the S-Works Epic 29....

  15. Excellent. I'm not sure you can post pictures in a comment but I'd love to see them, and will post them here if you like. You can email them to pro35blog gmail dot com.